A frantic few final minutes ultimately didn’t fall in Orlando’s favor on Friday night, the Magic losing a tough one in Salt Lake City by a final count of 112-108.
Both teams were careless through the opening quarter, with some questionable shot attempts and wayward passes evident at each end of the court. An aggressive Franz Wagner got Orlando’s offense rolling before a pair of Wendell Carter Jr. triples provided scoring support, important points considering the unfriendly whistle that the team was dealing with. Terrence Ross and Moritz Wagner both buried jumpers shortly after checking in, but a late 8-0 burst by Lauri Markkanen pushed the Jazz in front as the Magic failed to keep pace. At the first break it was 36-27 in Utah’s favor.
Orlando opened the second with a quick 9-2 spurt, back-to-back-to-back threes from F. Wagner and Ross (x2) bringing the team within a basket. The two sides then traded chances over the next few minutes, the Jazz unable to break free but the Magic unable to entirely reel them in.
A Paolo Banchero dunk got Orlando as close as a point at 47-46, but 7 straight to Walker Kessler pushed the deficit back to where it had resided for much of the quarter. Some late physicality in the lane finally generated some points closer to the hoop for the Magic, including a filthy dunk by Carter Jr. on Kessler’s head. It was a small burst of momentum for Orlando heading into the major break, the team trailing 61-56 with a half still to play.
Leading the way for Orlando was Franz Wagner, with 11 points courtesy of 3 long-range makes to go with his 3 steals. Carter Jr. had a well-rounded 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, while Ross’ rapid-fire 8 points off the bench all came during an important stretch. However, Banchero was quiet with just 4 points on 2-4 shooting from the field, the rookie without a free-throw attempt as the Magic produced just 8 collectively in the first half. If not for the team’s 10-21 mark from deep, the margin would have been more imposing.
A hand injury to Gary Harris forced a reshuffle, Jalen Suggs joining the other starters to open the third. A pair of tough and-one finishes to Carter Jr. and F. Wagner fueled a quick 6-0 run, a Paolo-to-Franz fastbreak then giving the Magic their first lead since the game’s opening minutes, nudging ahead 66-65. They continued to take the advantage over the next few minutes, outscoring the Jazz 14-7 across the opening of the period before both sides went to their benches at the six-minute mark.
Momentum shifted back Utah’s way courtesy of a 11-1 spurt, Collin Sexton pressuring Orlando’s defense as the Magic went six consecutive possessions without a basket at the other end. A Banchero three ended the streak of futility, but the Jazz quickly added another 5 to push their lead to 9 points. A Franz flurry in the closing minutes – including an absurd running triple at the buzzer – closed the gap, the Magic trailing 88-83 entering the fourth.
Turnovers plagued the opening minutes of the final quarter, the Magic getting some offense from the Wagner Bros. combination but little else. A couple of Utah three-pointers threatened to blow it open, but Orlando were able to do enough defensively to slow the pace back down and limit the Jazz’s chances.
However, Utah’s immense advantage at the free-throw line continued in the fourth, Clarkson drawing contact on a three-point attempt and Markkanen earning his eighteenth and nineteenth trips as the Jazz took a commanding 101-89 lead. The Magic got 5 quick points in response to keep it interesting, a burst they followed with some energetic defense and a 6-0 Banchero run. The final emphatic dunk brought Orlando back within a point, down 105-104 with two-and-a-half minutes to play.
The next minute belonged to Mo Bamba, the recently mothballed big man re-injected into the contest and making an immediate impact. First he hauled in a loose ball for a steal. Then he made a strong challenge and blocked a shot at the hoop. He finished by dropping the ball in the basket at the other end, the Magic ahead 106-105 with 1:18 left on the clock.
The teams traded baskets on the next three possessions, Clarkson nudging Utah back ahead on a driving layup. When Franz missed a long-range look it turned the game into a free-throw contest, the Magic gifted an opportunity when Sexton missed a pair but cruelly losing that same chance when Kessler hauled in the offensive rebound over Bamba’s back. Utah’s rookie hit both of the resulting free-throws, and when Franz couldn’t get a clean look at the other end it was over, the Magic falling 112-108 in Salt Lake City. That they were ultimately done in by a sequence involving an offensive rebound and a trip to the charity stripe was a fitting microcosm of the team’s night.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: Franz Wagner — was fantastic through the first three periods but – ironically, considering the recent discourse – found the sledding a little tougher in the fourth. Finished with 26 points on 50.0% shooting, with 5 threes, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists, a block and zero turnovers rounding out his personal tally.
Second star: Wendell Carter Jr. — Didn’t get much of a chance to put his imprint on the game late, but still managed to rack up 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 ‘stocks’ in a well-rounded performance.
Third star: Mo Bamba — only played 12 minutes after being dusted off to cover some under-performing teammates, and damn near stole the game with his play in the fourth. 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 ‘stocks’ and a clean make from deep begs the question whether he should be playing more.
The Magic will be back at it in Denver on Sunday night, the fifth and final game of this current road trip.